A new 280-acre Waterfowl Production Area near Starbuck, Minn. has been dedicated in honor of Jeff Finden, Pheasants Forever’s first executive director and longtime board member. The Finden Waterfowl Production Area was made possible, in part, by a grant from Minnesota’s Outdoor Heritage Fund (created by the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment), a North American Wetland Conservation Act grant, Pheasants Forever’s Build a Wildlife Area fund and many other partners and donors. The area will be managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and open to public hunting and outdoor recreation.
One of the founders of Pheasants Forever, Jeff Finden was Pheasants Forever’s first staff member and served as the organization’s executive director from 1982 until his retirement in 2000. Finden, in fact, headquartered the fledgling Pheasants Forever organization in his home’s basement from 1982 until 1986. Under Finden’s direction, Pheasants Forever’s membership grew into the six figures and the nonprofit quickly became a national leader in state and federal conservation policy.
At the dedication ceremony, Finden praised two key pieces that made this signature wildlife habitat project possible: Pheasants Forever’s chapter model which allows local affiliates to keep decision-making power over the funds they raise, and the Outdoor Heritage Fund, a key funding source. Finden, who has roots in the Pope County area and has hunted and fished there his entire life, is proud future generations of outdoorsmen and women will be able to enjoy this legacy parcel. “This will be here forever,” Finden proclaimed.
“Conservation was a Finden family affair,” says Howard Vincent, Finden’s successor and the organization’s president and CEO since 2000, “Jeff’s wife, Kaye, worked out of their home with Jeff as an unpaid Pheasants Forever staffer. His children, Amy and Chris, were always helping out with raffles at banquets. And his brother, Dennis, was a very active Pheasants Forever volunteer. It’s only fitting the monument dedicated on these acres says ‘Finden Family Waterfowl Production Area.”
The new Waterfowl Production Area is part of what’s known locally as the “Starbuck Swamp,” a large cattail wetland that Eran Sandquist, Pheasants Forever’s regional representative in northern Minnesota, describes as “a critical wintering area for pheasants, deer and many other critters.” Sandquist says the property’s seller, John Gardiner, also deserves a great deal of gratitude for his conservation vision. “He’s an avid hunter and very happy to be part of leaving this legacy and protecting the property permanently.”
Additional partners include the family of William Gardiner, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Glacial Ridge Pheasants Forever chapter, Douglas County Pheasants Forever chapter, Pioneer Heritage Conservation Trust and Viking Sportsmen.
The Finden Waterfowl Production Area is located west of Starbuck, Minn. From Starbuck, go west on MN TH 28 for 3 miles. Turn south (left) on 320th Avenue. Go 1 mile.